The New Jersey Assembly Higher Education Committee voted in favor of the New Jersey Fair Play Act on March 5, 2020. The bill would permit college athletes within the state of New Jersey to receive compensation for endorsement deals. The panel’s decision, in approving the bill and its senate counterpart, voted 4-2, will advance the legislation, which would ultimately take effect in five academic years after its enactment.
If signed into law, the New Jersey Fair Play Act would ensure the right of student-athletes to make money off of their name, image, and likeness without compromising their scholarship eligibility. Additionally, the act would ensure students’ rights to legal representation in negotiating endorsement deals.
Assemblyman Gerard Scharfenberger, though, compared the idea of allowing student-athletes to be compensated for endorsement deals to “a genie being let out of the bottle [that] could be a huge problem.” Explaining his dissenting vote against the bill, Scharfenberger noted, “You’re talking about bringing in sports agents to negotiate merchandising deals and opening this up … at the college level. The capitalist in me wants to see these young men and women … make money legitimately, but the downside is very great in my eyes.”
In response, Tim Nevius of Nevius Legal, an advocate for student-athletes, stated that the bill would provide basic economic rights to the athletes. Nevius continued, “We can’t wait for the NCAA to act. They have obstructed progress. They don’t change unless they are forced to change and it is only because of state action that we have gotten to this point.”
This type of legislation is not novel. As we have previously reported, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law in Sept. 2019, making California the first state to allow student-athletes to earn compensation through endorsements or sponsorships. The law provides that student-athletes at 58 member schools within California are permitted to receive compensation for the school’s use of their name, image, and likeness.
In response to the California law, a number of other states joined the movement. New York, South Carolina, and Illinois are among the states in favor of similar legislation, and New Jersey now adds to the fray. It is clear that the question of compensating student-athletes will continue to be a contentious one, and the NCAA will have to answer to increasing demand for student rights.